The Question Game. Playa Troncones
The stars were already shining brightly in the night sky as we took our clothes off. The anticipation of getting hot and wet together was palpable in the warm evening air. We had been strangers only 24 hours earlier, but now the four of us were in the middle of the forest, with only the frogs as vocal witnesses to what we were about to do.
Our bare feet navigated the uneven ground, and suddenly we were there. Sinking ourselves into a natural hot spring. After a few minutes of laughing and floating, our hosts revealed that there was an even hotter pool further up the hill. We climbed up to that more sulfurous smelling pool and heated things up even further. As we were frolicking in the mud, we heard a car pull up.Â TechnicallyÂ we were on private land, and the possibility of being caught with our pants down (literally) was very real. We held still for a few minutes until it became clear that whoever had joined us was not coming to find us. So we went to find them.
We made our way back down to the first pool and found a local couple enjoying the water. We must have made quite a sight, four naked white people appearing out of the darkness and jumping in beside them. I feel sorry for the man, as we think he was trying to woo his companion, and instead they left quite soon after we invaded. Sorry dude.
Playa Troncones was our next stop in Mexico. Leaving Nexpa’s gorgeous beaches and wonderful people was difficult, so Troncones had a lot to live up to. It managed it withÂ panache.
We were couchsurfing with a guy called Pedro. Born as a Peter nearÂ Philadelphia,Â Pedro now lives in Mexico with his VW Westfalia van. At the moment he is renting a bungalow at “Las Rocas” and that is where we joined him – a week later than we had originally requested his couch for.
Our mum and dad often bought similar campervans as we were growing up (twice in Europe and once in Australia) so we felt right at home cruising to the beach and buying coconuts in Pedro’s.
Pedro took us to a party our first night in Playa Troncones, attended mostly by the staff of a local Yoga retreat, Present Moment. What a fabulous group of people! Everyone had brought food, so we stuffed ourselves silly, and regaled the crowds with tales of our journey. The party was at a beautiful apartment we came to know well, owned by a guy called Russell. Russell had a girl called Sarah staying with him. We didn’t know it yet, but Sarah was to become our new best friend.
Also at the party we met fellow burners Robert and Tierna, who are fishermen in Alaska for half the year. We also got to know the owners of Present Moment, Coby and CJ, who are going to trade us the retreat for our motorcycles once we get to Ushuaia and ride back up (details not yet finalised, some wine may have been involved in the development of this plan). Our new neighbour Emily was also there, and turned out to be my wonderful yoga instructor the next afternoon.
I would say that the theme for our stay in Troncones was “Questions”.
It all started with The Book of Questions. This book was sitting on Russell’s coffee table and Sarah started asking us questions from it as the party wound down. A great way to move the conversation from “where are you from?” and “what do you do?” to more probing questions that reveal who you are instead.
The next morning Sarah showed up at Pedro’s place and invited us all to join her for brunch. We hung out with her pretty much from that moment until she left for the airport. Sarah is one of those wonderful people who I love to meet, who I take an instant liking to. Kindred spirits.
After a long brunch she and I went to yoga at Present Moment, while Phil and Pedro went surfing. That night was Mole night at a local restaurant, so the four of us went for that delicious experience. Mole is a special Mexican sauce, usually served over meat, made with chilis and chocolate. Our dinner however was marred by the bill coming. The guy who served us, Orbe, had offered Phil and Pedro some locally produced Mezcal, which he poured from a plastic coca-cola bottle. They accepted, and were shocked to see that he had charged us 220 pesos for the four shots. While this is less than US$20 – it was very expensive for Mexico, and the way that he had offered it led us to believe he was giving it for free. Another lesson in asking what things cost, even when you believe the offerer to be a friend.
We took the bad taste out of our mouths by skinny dipping in the hot springs under the moonlight. Such an incredible experience, making me feel like I was going back in time as Phil and I have often visited the Banff Hot Springs, a huge commericalised pool in the mountains near where we grew up. I’m sure the springs we visited here in Mexico are what Banff’s were like before they were ruined by people’s enthusiasm for them.
The next day the four of us decided to go surfing at La Saladita, an “old man’s longboard wave” which I was assured is perfect for learning on. On the way there we picked up a hitch-hiker who was going in to Zihuatanejo to do some shopping. Turned out to be Shawn, an American musician who had been living in a local puebla (village) for the past few weeks. He agreed to pick up a couple of bottles of Pedro’s favourite vodka in town for him and to come out for dinner with a group of us that evening. I love meeting people randomly!
Sarah and I rented boards after watching the boys for a bit, and I managed to get to my knees again, but fell in when I tried to stand up. I’ll get there eventually. My paddling arms are getting slightly stronger, but it’s still pathetic how tired I get from just paddling out one time.
We had lunch at a local taco stand and Sarah decided to give me a lime hair treatment.
Phil looked on amused:
Pedro taught us a great trick of bringing your own bottle of your favourite tipple where ever you go to eat. No more 55 peso shots for us!!
Sarah is a masseuse, specialising in Thai massage. That afternoon she came up with a plan for a group massage class. She and I would massage the boys, then they would return the favour.
Unfortunately this worked out to the boys getting a 3 hour massage and the girls getting about 20 minutes, only on the right side of our bodies, because we ran out of time and were late meeting our friends for dinner.
Our tardiness resulted in Shawn being the only one still there to meet us at the rendezvous point, so the five of us sped off to the restaurant to find the rest of our friends who had obviously gone without us. Except they weren’t there when we arrived.
This is the way things go in Mexico, so we just carried on and I ate tomales for the first time. Tomales are parcels of food wrapped in corn husks. I had chicken Â encased in a kind of cornmeal dough. Piled with sour cream and toppings it was quite delicious!
We went back to Sarah’s apartment where Pedro’s friend Lucia joined us and Shawn got out his ipod and played us a track he had just released as part of a new project he is working on. To be honest I was underwhelmed. Its not secret that I’m not a huge hip-hop fan, and in our discussions since Shawn has pointed out that I “don’t understand” hip-hop.
Shawn pulled out his guitar, and I was a bit worried about what he’d come out with next. What followed was hours of really great music. Shawn sang songs he was covering and ones he had written himself, and it was AWESOME. We started singing along to some of them, and then he started whistling. This guy can whistle. It’s legendary. I am only sorry that I do not have a clip to share with you.
Just when the night couldn’t get any better, Robert, Tierna and Emily, who we had been supposed to meet for dinner, showed up at the door. Now we really had a party.
There were legendary comments like “The hole on your guitar is in the wrong place.”, Â “Are Canadians even allowed to win grammys?” and ” Have you ever noticed that Dr Cox from the TV series Scrubs has a neck that looks like a vagina?”.
Much laughter ensued, and the writing of two new Shawn Madden original songs. One about how the hole in his guitar is in the wrong place, and, our personal favourite, “Vagina Neck”.
The fun went late into the night, and I ended the evening chatting with Shawn. He’s a man with a purpose, who wants very much to inspire and bring change to the world. Exactly how he’s going to do that is what he’s working out right now. I found him very easy to talk to, falling into meaningful conversation very quickly.
The next day was spent recovering from the night before. We went with Sarah to see baby turtles be released on the beach just before sunset, then back to Present Moment, where Shawn and his friend Dennis were playing to the dinner crowd.
That evening I ended up going for a walk on the beach with Shawn. (Note to self: beaches at night are full of biting insects.) Shawn was having a crisis of confidence and I served as a stranger who he could open up to. I asked him a lot of questions. I’m working on asking more and more questions to people. I find the answers to often be much more enlightening and interesting than I ever dream to be possible. The themes that came out of that conversation were all about how important it is to connect to the people you are surrounded by, how we all need to ensure we approach life with balance, and that it is possible to achieve intimacy with almost anyone you meet if you are willing to take the time and truly listen to what they have to say.
The next day Sarah left. A difficult aspect of travelling is that we keep having to say goodbye to people. I really don’t like saying goodbye, and it was especially difficult with Sarah. She’s on her own journey though, and I am sure our paths will cross again.
I spent the afternoon hanging out in a hammock in Pedro’s garden with Shawn. After the emotionalÂ turmoilÂ on the beach the previous night, it was cool to see what else we could talk and laugh about.
Later that afternoon I had booked a massage with Lucia, a good friend of Pedro’s who lives in a sweet little house down the road. She has a shop where she gives massages, sells natural aromatherapy products that she makes, as well as silverÂ jewelryÂ and other pretty things.
The massage was exactly what I needed. Lucia worked at helping the energy flow through my body, releasing emotions and placing stones and crystals at my chakras. It was an amazing experience, I have never felt so light, so alive, and so well as I did emerging from her shop.
I feel so full of love at the moment. It’s as though I spent so many years repressing the love I have for the world, for other people, for myself, that now that I amÂ acknowledgingÂ it, it is bursting out of me at every moment. It’s a wonderful feeling.
That evening we attended a fiesta being held as a fundraiser for a local school. The whole village was there, with parents selling all sorts of food and drinks to raise money.
At one point Phil asked me and Shawn to pose for a picture:
The day we left Pedro took Jugs for a spin, and we had to say goodbye again to new friends.
We now know why it was that Andy chose Zihuatanejo to escape to in The Shawshank Redemption. Remember the name of that town! Then go down the road a bit and find yourself in Playa Troncones.